A Call To Fast During Advent
In Acts 13:1-4, the early church was at a crossroads. Hungry for God’s power and direction, we find them spending intentional time in prayer, fasting, and worship. It was in that little prayer meeting where the Holy Spirit spoke to them and called them to send out Paul and Barnabas as missionaries, forever impacting the course of the church! A couple months ago the elders felt an increased conviction about our pursuit of God, particularly through the disciplines of prayer and fasting. We responded by beginning to fast and pray together on Wednesdays with our elder and staff team. It has been an amazing (and challenging) gift to us that God has been using in multiple and profound ways, and we wanted to extend a broader invitation: During this season of Advent, we want to invite the whole church into a season of corporate prayer and fasting in order to seek God’s face and His power and His direction for Park Church.
Before we get into specifics, what exactly is fasting and what does it have to do with Advent?
What Is Fasting?
Fasting is one of those disciplines that most Christians know they should do, but rarely get around to it. The interesting thing is that it’s one of the disciplines we see Jesus doing (Matthew 4:1-11; 17:21), a discipline He assumes His disciples are doing (Matthew 6:16) and a discipline we see the early church continuing to do (Acts 13:1-3; 14:23). So what is it? David Mathis defines fasting as “voluntarily going without food — or any other regularly enjoyed, good gift from God — for the sake of some spiritual purpose.” Some people, for medical reasons or otherwise, can’t fast from physical food but that doesn’t mean they’re excluded. Many have found that fasting from social media, television, particular activities or foods have shown themselves to be a helpful way of intentionally engaging with God.
Fasting ultimately is about refraining from one thing that we might engage more intentionally with another, namely God. Sam Storms comments, “The ironic thing about fasting is that it really isn’t about not eating food. It’s about feeding on the fullness of every divine blessing secured for us in Christ. Fasting tenderizes our hearts to experience the presence of God. It expands the capacity of our souls to hear his voice and be assured of his love and be filled with the fullness of his joy. Let me say it again: Fasting is not primarily about not eating food. It is primarily about feasting on God.”
What does Advent have to do with fasting?
The word “advent” means “arrival” or “coming”. The season of Advent marks the beginning of the Christian Calendar four Sundays before Christmas. It looks back to Christ’s first advent in a humble manger in Bethlehem, but also looks forward to His second advent as glorious judge who is coming in the clouds. This season is about longing, hoping, and anticipating Christ’s return to right every wrong in the world and wipe away every tear. It’s about acknowledging the shadows we face in this world but also praying for the dawn to drown out the darkness. While fasting is generally a discipline associated with the season of Lent, we believe that fasting during the season of Advent can be a powerful aid to our engagement of this season as it is designed to intensify our desires and longing for God.
What are we asking you to do?
Would you consider joining us in prayer & fasting for 4 Wednesdays during the season of Advent? Every Wednesday, we would love for you to fast during breakfast and lunch for the purpose of praying that God would give us two things:
- A hunger for God – We don’t just mean more knowledge about God, but rather we want to be a people who know Him intimately, commune with Him, and experience Him! He is not merely a doctrine to be studied, but rather a Person to be known.
- A unity in mission – As we get to know Him more and more, an inevitable by-product is we want others to know Him! People naturally share the things that they love… Would you cry out with us that God would provide more clarity and unity for us as a church as we join Him in all He’s doing in Denver and the world?
Friends, these are things that we believe only the Holy Spirit can do in our hearts. We can’t grit our teeth to muster up more hunger. We believe prayer stands as a reminder that apart from Him we can do nothing.
Practically speaking, we are asking you to refrain from breakfast and lunch on Wednesdays in order to spend time intentionally praying for four Wednesdays of Advent. Each week, we will provide something for you to “read, pray, & sing” at some point during the day or even with your roommates or family before or after dinner, but by no means is that the only or one thing you should do. Click here to see our fasting guide for week 1 of Advent. Many find it helpful to get out of their home or office in order to engage more intentionally due to the distractions found in your rhythms of normalcy. Consider setting reminders on your phone or calendar, or having one person you will fast with who you can keep in touch with throughout the day. Whatever it is you opt to do, we encourage you to have a plan! Below are a few resources that might be of assistance to you in this season.
“Hunger for God” (John Piper, free digital copy)
“Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” (edited by Nancy Guthrie)
“The Dawning of Indestructible Joy: Daily Readings For Advent” (John Piper & David Mathis)
“Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings For Advent” (John Piper)
*All of these books can be found on our book shelves.